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What’s in a Name?

February 23, 2010

Something is bothering me. This thing happens on a very regular basis, more so in the last few months. I’ve stayed silent, choosing not to out the offenders for I know they mean no harm. That being said, unless we are aware of our shortcomings, we are powerless to change them. It is in the interest of schooling, not resentment that I discuss this. Consider this an education, a growing exercise, if you will.

 My name is Esther. E. s. t. H. e. r.

 There’s an “H” in there. It’s confusing, because it’s silent. I know.

 It is written several times on this page (and feel free to use this site as a reference guide when constructing emails and hand-written correspondence to me, should you ever feel doubtful). No matter what email address I communicate with someone through, the name is the same in the “To” and signature areas.

So I wonder: why do people spell it Ester?

As a small child, I hated my name. Surrounded by Ashley’s and Rachel’s and Lindsay’s, I felt like a freak, like I was trapped with a name that was unfairly foisted upon me. I dreamed about the names I’d rather have (Pearl. Seriously). Sunday school was torture. Inevitably, Purim would roll around each year, and I’d beg to stay home for fear that I would be the target of some kid’s cruel joke. Upon complaining about this, my mother would say to me, “We almost named you Eliza, so suck it up.” Thanks, Mom.

Recently, I met one of the owners of Block 7 Wine Company, Corey Broche. Our conversation went as follows:

Corey: Oh! Your name is Esther. My aunt’s name is Esther.

Me: You mean great aunt.

Corey: Yes. Great aunt. How’d you know?

Because I just know. Because once a week (at least) I get, “Hey, my grandmother is Esther!” or “My great aunt is Esther!” It comes with the territory.

Two decades (give or take) later, I love my name. It’s unique and biblical and beautiful. But there’s a chance I have a slight complex about it, hence the reason for this post in the first place. But I digress.

Why this is a problem

Some of the people who misspell my name are business contacts, or worse, potential business contacts. What’s even worse than that is many of them are people who don’t know me at all, but want my business. Cold emailers, who consider me a lead. These are the people who should always, always be spelling people’s named correctly.

As soon as I see “Dear Ester,” I’m turned off,  immediately assumimg the person either a) bought a list with my email address on it, or b) didn’t take the time to find out how to spell it. Neither set good precedent or make me trust your business.

Things to remember: 

  1. Google is your friend. In spite of the fact that some of their recent roll-outs are useless, Google’s search is still the best there is. Chances are, if the person is a marketing professional, you will find her name by searching for her email address. If your first point of contact with someone is going to be through email and you’d like for that person to be a client of yours, you can’t afford to not spell her name correctly so add this step to your checklist.
  2. PR people: Journalists already think you’re stupid. That’s right. A lot of journalists have an adversarial relationship with public relations practitioners, even the good ones. Personalization of press releases is critical, so if you have the ability to include “Dear So-and-so” at the beginning of a release, you’re on your way. But don’t fool yourself into believing that a misspelled name is good enough. Do the work to keep your contact list updated.

Is it the most important part of the message? Maybe not. But it’d be a shame for that relevant, well-crafted message to be ignored because of a small slip-up.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2010 1:16 pm

    I can completely relate to where you’re coming from, Esther. Although my name is spelled “Laurie,” I get tons of “Lori,” “Lorie,” “Lauri” and “Lory.” And you’re right. If they simply did a Google search, they would instantly know how to spell our names correctly. Just the other day I got “Mr. Steiner Laurie” — that was the best one yet.

    • Esther Steinfeld permalink*
      March 9, 2010 4:28 pm

      Ha! Mr. Steiner Laurie. SO calling you that from now on!

  2. Meloney permalink
    February 24, 2010 9:35 am

    As a Meloney (not the more common Melanie, nor Melody, nor Melony), I feel ya sister. The worst is when the correct spelling is right there in the internal business email To: field and they still get it wrong. My instant impression upon reading those emails is, “This person is either lazy or does not value me and what I can bring to the table. Next!”

    • Esther Steinfeld permalink*
      March 9, 2010 4:30 pm

      Exactly! It’s definitely worse if I’ve already emailed the person and she has the correct spelling of my name right there in front of her. So annoying.

  3. February 25, 2010 12:36 pm

    I can’t count how many times I’ve received an email to “Sara” even though my email address is sarah@xxxx. Does it really take that much effort to be sure you’re spelling something correctly? Business contacts instantly lose credibility when they can’t get my name right.

    • Esther Steinfeld permalink*
      March 9, 2010 4:30 pm

      Apparently, it DOES take that much effort. Maybe it’s better if others keep spelling people’s names wrong, it makes the rest of us look good 🙂

  4. February 25, 2010 1:40 pm

    Raissa. Do I win? 😉

    • Esther Steinfeld permalink*
      March 9, 2010 4:31 pm

      You most definitely win. How do you even say that?! 😉

  5. February 25, 2010 3:15 pm

    I get Dough. Seriously…DOUGH?

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